Hunter Brodina’s first two varsity goals and two-point nights from Wyatt Mattfield and Wylee Gladen propelled Bemidji boys hockey to a 4-1 win at Section 8AA foe St. Cloud on Saturday evening at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex.
One day removed from starting the new season with a 2-2 tie at Mounds View, the Lumberjacks failed to capitalize on an early 5-on-3 power play during a slow start to the game. Any concerns about tired legs were put to rest with a shorthanded goal deposited by Mattfield at 11:33 of the first when he followed up Gladen’s initial shot.
The rest of the opening period played out relatively evenly, reflected in a matching total of nine shots for each team. Senior goaltender Brayden Puppe was also solid in his first period of varsity hockey in two years.
Bemidji seized control of the game in the second period with an 11-3 shots advantage and eight quality scoring chances to just one for the newly-christened Crush. One of those was Hunter Brodina’s first-ever varsity tally off an assist from Ben Kieson for the game’s second goal at 2:27 of the second.
Further chances came in quick succession on the Lumberjacks’ top line with both Mattfield and Gladen denied by St. Cloud’s Henry Bulson.
An already special period of hockey got even better for Brodina later in the second. He exchanged passes with Cooper Malkowski, then finished a driving skate in transition with a backhand that slid under Bulson for his second and Bemidji’s third goal.
Gladen continued his personal duel with Bulson not long after, slipping past the defense and rifling a high shot that tipped off the glove of the netminder.
The persistence of the senior captain was rewarded in the third period, as he picked up possession from a Mattfield pass and beat Bulson low just moments after being denied once again.
Just two minutes after the goal, Gladen ran into trouble when a high hit made contact with the head of one of the Crush’s forwards. The penalty was ruled both a five minute major and a game misconduct, and the ensuing power play featured St. Cloud’s only goal of the night from Ripley Garden.
Despite losing his bid for a clean night, Puppe still put together several solid stops as part of a 23-save night and his first varsity victory.
Bemidji finishes the opening weekend of the season 1-0-1 and will next travel to Duluth East on Thursday for a 7pm game.
Postgame interview with Bemidji assistant coach Vinny Huerd: